I grabbed the nearest thing to me, which so happen to be a ceramic vase from my dresser, and I launched it across the room at Cedric’s head. The red eyed rage had consumed me and God had clearly forsaken my prayers for restraint.
It missed, smashing against the wall into pieces, and Cedric screamed when I tackle him off the bed, attempting to strangle the life out of him. All I could think about in that very moment was everything he had done to me over the years and how many times I was dumb enough to forgive him.
I was a fool to think he was my friend, it had been clear years ago when he had weaseled his way into Solomon’s bed while simultaneously trying his best at sabotaging my life. Cedric always had the style, the charming charisma, the face, the body, that flawless tawny cinnamon complexion that garnered loads of attention, yet he still wanted more.. he wanted what I had.
What I lacked in style was replaced with earnest ambition, where I was without charm was made up with honesty and grace, compared to him I may have even come up short in looks but I still had the brains and intellect to elevate me in the eyes of my peers. I may not have had the body or the pretty bright skin tone but I had success and hard work to validate me, not the attention of others.
Yet here he was trying to take it all, everything of the person I was that made me special, he wanted it for himself. This was more than the petty ‘crab in a barrel’ mentality elder black folk always cautioned about, this was some sick replica of ‘Single White Female’ starring two black bottoms in the lead.
My hands were grip tight around his throat as he twist and turn to escape, I should have been more prepared when he flipped us over and a wild swinging punch connect with my cheek. We both stood to our feet and proceeded to go blow for blow in a fist fight that was a long time coming. I had forgotten his advantage of athletic strength but I more than made up for it with angst and anger, he tried to surprise me by flipping me over his shoulder but I rammed us both into my full length mirror, sending us crashing back down to the floor, as shards of glass rain down from above.
Shaw yell for us to stop but I ignored his ass, because that bastard was just as much at fault for this calamity as Cedric was, and I’d be dealing with him accordingly. An intense heat consume my body, it was fiery and ferocious, full of broiling rage and a healthy dose of contempt.
It penetrate my heart, deep down to my very soul, leaving a void only hate could fill, a hate that would further consume me as I grabbed one of the largest shards of broken mirror. My grip was tight enough that it cut into my hand, causing my palm to fill with blood, but that didn’t stop me from raising it high and bringing down hard to pierce Cedric’s throat.
I had to shake my head to clear my thoughts, anxiety and rage was a hell of a mixture, enough to make me feel so unlike myself, as if I’d been in a trance. Yet this prove more than not recognizing the person I was, it was feeling like a whole new person in entirety, like I no longer control my body and the devil was somewhere in the shadows pulling the puppet strings.
“Hello, did you hear what hell I just said?!” Cedric asked, as he got up off of Shaw, the tightness of his ass pulling the condom up with him. “You answer me when I’m speaking to you bitch, you don’t ignore me, NO ONE ignores me. That’s the way it’s been and the way it always will be Cydnee, just think of this as a lesson learned to remind you of your place.”
“Wha.. what?” I was confused, like I’d momentarily blanked out and lost myself, so much so that I had forgotten where I was and what devastation of tragic reality lay before me, I look down at my hands to find them empty, clean, and clear of any of the blood that had felt all too real only seconds before.
“Don’t worry Cyddie Boi, everything is gonna be fine.. I forgive you.”
“Are you insane? YOU? You forgive.. me?”
“You’re my best buddy, ya know? My good ole trusted sidekick, the Robin to my Batman, the Biden to my Obama, of course I forgive you. But you better never forget, there is only room for one of us to shine and we both know damn well that the star has always been me. You thought you could dress up in new rags, change up your attitude, and finally getting that nappy mop of locs on your head retwisted would be good enough to allow someone like you take my place? Take what I’ve work so hard to achieve? It’s a scenario that’s comical to fathom.”
“Are you that petty? All this is over a little bit of attention and praise? You fucking drugged me and put me in bed with a man you’re having an affair with to discredit my integrity and cause calamity.. are you THAT insecure?”
“I wasn’t the insecure one who ran crying like a baby when Solomon chose me all those years ago, I’m not the one who BARELY got the job at Arkham because I looked like the dollar store brand version of Whoopi Goldberg in ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’, I’m not the bitch ready to cry over a nine inch dick when the poor bastard lying there in the bed hardly knows how to use it, though I admit.. he did last longer than I expected, you sure know how to pick’em.” He burst out into a fit of manic laughter, sounding like some sort of villainous character in a Disney film, putting Cruella, Ursula, and Maleficent to shame.
“What is your major malfunction Cedric? None of this is making any sense, all this because I’m getting praise at work and from our peers? I find that quite unbelievable..”
“Are you that asinine that you still don’t get it? It’s not about Shaw, Famous, or any of the other peons we work with, it’s about who we are working for!”
“Huh, Jynx Ellison? What does he have to do with this?”
“He has everything to do with this! I’ll be damned if I let you snatch from my grasp what I’ve worked so hard to achieve, for what I sold my fucking soul for..”
“A job? All this.. for a freaking job?”
“Not just any job, you idiot, it’s THE JOB. The rumour about the intrapreneur promotion has been circling for weeks now, only an out of the loop pathetic bitch like you could be so daft to not hear of it, and now you stand most likely to get it. Well, that was before my plan was set in motion, you’re lucky enough to be able to keep the position you have after I’m through with you.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it didn’t make any sense at all, largely because I didn’t even know if I would take anything Jynx Ellison would ever offer me, let alone a job where I’d feel like I’m selling my soul. That was the biggest difference between the two of us, Cedric and I, he was willing to do anything to achieve his dreams of power and success, while I would forever question my limits.
The limit of my morals, the extent of my abilities, the end to my endurance, even the limits of the possibilities. Maybe that’s where this envy of his was born, because even with all my limits I could surpass anything he’d ever be capable of, no matter how many of his own limits he could break free from.
I look to the bed wondering why or how Shaw could be so silent through all of this mess, but watching him closely for a moment, I recognize the dazed and distressed look on his face, he seem to be trying to move but incapable to. I return my gaze to Cedric with my anger and rage renewed, my thoughts recall the scene I had observe walking into the apartment, most importantly to the two unfinished glasses of wine sitting out.
“What did you do to him?”
“I did what I had to..” He replied nonchalantly, tossing the used condom that had been trapped between his cheeks in my direction, so that it made a lewd sound as it slapped against the hardwood floor, landing at my feet.
By then I had decided enough was fucking enough, I jumped toward him and took hold of the fresh set of faux locs he had installed in his hair, damn near snatching him bald as I drag him across the room. He struggled to get free and twisted his legs between my own, tripping me to floor. We tussle for a few moments before he elbow me in the eye, and tried to run, forgetting the fist full I had of his hair, which kept him from getting too far before they were ripped from his head. He cried out but decided to lose this battle and his delicate edges to win the war, scrambling to his room and locking shut the door behind him.
I pounded against it for a good ten minutes before giving up and heading back to my room to find Shaw throwing up over the side of the bed. Sighing, and wiping away a few stray tears, I went to help him as I pray to God that the power of forgiveness could be found somewhere in the depths of my broken heart.
~~ ”** I ask here on my knees, could there still be a place for me, though I’ve sinned abundantly.. To the Lord.. (I Pray..) **” ~~
I sat there in the second to last pew near the back of the church, watching this young ebony skinned girl sing, wondering if she could see into the hidden truth of my soul. She couldn’t have been older than eleven or twelve yet her mature voice seem to speak the language of my pain and hurt, her tone and melismas were as if an angel had come down from heavens above to set up shop in the humble home of her throat, that every so often it had to burst free and cry out from her mouth in a flutter of pristine notes.
~~ “** I ask for the power, to shake the devil from my back, to get my life back on track, oh my Lord.. (I Pray..) **” ~~
The chorus behind her, three men and seven women, utter such a simple phrase, soft as a whisper but the power within the words were enough to draw tears from my eyes. The combination of voices cause my soul to weep, as the inspiring melody and their cohesive voices grew louder together with a rising joy.
~~“** I pray here.. (Every morning!) Every mornin, noon, and night.. Oh! (I Pray..) That I still have the strength to fight.. (I Pray..) Lord, I come.. to.. you.. humble, broken, bruised, abused.. (I Pray..) By a world that proves so cruel, and I lift my hands in praise, as.. I Pray! **”~~
It had been a long series of months, maybe even a year, since I’d felt compelled to walk into a church. Sure, I made sure to whisper a prayer every so often, but this time that didn’t feel like it was enough, times like now, when I felt to be at the lowest of lows and attacked on all sides. The last couple of days had taken a toll on my spirit, leaving me drained and withered by the fault of my own hand, I felt as if there need to come a change.. a reckoning.
~~”** OooOh Lord.. (I Pray!) My loving precious Lord (I Pray!) Lord God above, full of everlasting love! (Ooh, I Pray!) **”~~
The congregation burst out in a round of applause and rejoice as the final words to the child’s song ended, a few of the people around me shout out illegibly as the spirit took over them, and they praise unabashedly. There was a sensation of healing within me, like my soul was being mended, though it still felt like a delicate patchwork quilt that had seen one too many washes in an old rusted washer.
“Hallelujah! Hallelujah.. let the church say amen, I said lemme’ hear ya say amen y’all!” The Pastor was a tall sturdily built man, with a maturely lined and freckled face that gave consistency to his age and wisdom, he held his hand up high as if reaching toward something none could see but we all could feel. “Yes! God is in here today, I said, I say.. God, is in here today, let the congregation say amen one more time, let’m know we know he’s here, let us praise him!”
“AMEN!” We all holler in chorus, and I could feel the thickness in the air, like a cloak of comfort and ease.
“Yes.. and let us thank him for our new darling young soloist, she’s barely a preteen yet clearly the anointing in within her, she sings for us like a gifted angel. Her and her mother just moved here, a few short weeks ago but I recognize a blessing when I see it, and Patience Rosén my dear, you are truly blessed. Can we have a round of applause for her everyone, we’ll be taking an offering up for her to show thanks very shortly, so please, let’s open our hearts in appreciation.”
There was several murmurs of agreements and a few more shouts of ‘amen’, as Patience curtsied and whispered a shy inaudible ‘thank you’ to the congregation. She was beautiful, the picturesque image of angelic innocence, crowned in a glorious hair of afro hair fastened into two lard puffs with lace ribbons. Her mother, fittingly named Hope, smile broadly and proud at her daughter from the third row, clapping excitedly along with the rest of us at her daughter’s amazing gift of song.
Someone slipped into the seat behind me, I could hear them as they sat down and muffled a cough, trying to camouflage their nervous fidgeting. I had an idea of who it was, as he had followed me the week before to another church in East Harlem, causing me not to go back because of the scene I’d caused in the middle of the prayer service when he touched me.
It was hard to explain to him how I just wasn’t ready to talk, I wasn’t in the right mind to be around anyone that I knew, that’s why I chose this random little church on a random street corner in one of the most ghetto areas of Harlem. And had it been any other day but Sunday, I would have looked out of place in my expensive three piece suit, possibly like a mark for the nearest mugger, but not on the Lord’s day, everyone was in their Sunday Best.
I tried to act like I didn’t notice him, but he already knew I’d caught wind of his presence, the light sweet smell of baby lotion mixed with an expensive designer cologne that always seem to follow him, breeze past my nose.
“Cydnee, we need to talk.”
I didn’t say anything in reply, pretending I was still in my own little world with nothing but me, myself, and the Holy Ghost. I hum with the organists melody that he softly play as the Pastor spoke words of encouragement, the message today was inner strength, which was fitting in such a trying moment.
“One has to forgive themselves and those who trespass against them in order to move on into the world with the inner strength to persevere, the root of strength is in forgiveness.. Forgive yourself, forgive your brethren, forgive your enemies because that my people, takes true strength.”
The Pastor’s words cut deep into me, sharply lashing at the stubbornness that kept me from turning around to face the man sitting behind me.
“Cydnee, can we step outside to talk for a moment, please?”
“How did you even find me here Shaw? How could you possibly have followed me here?”
“If you come with me, you can ask me anything you want to know, I’ll tell you anything and everything..”
I sighed, and slowly stood to my feet, following him outside, hoping this would provide the closure I needed, the closure that would set me on a path to healing. He asked if I wanted to go for a coffee, but I declined, instead mentioning we should make our way to Central park, as it was only about seven or eight blocks away.
The time it took to trek there would prepare me for the conversation we would have, once we arrived, I could see a secluded bench by a grove of trees that seem as perfect a spot as any, so we headed to it and sat down in a few moments of silence, both too afraid to speak first.
“How did you know where to find me? Last week I could understand, cause that church was right by my apartment, but this is miles away from my place.”
“I know people.. people that know things, like where to locate persons of interest.”
“Wait, you mean to tell me there are people following me? What the actual fuck Shaw.”
“It’s not quite that simple..” He reached towards me causing me to jump slightly, a reaction that made him frown and cause his brow to furrow, I sighed and sat still as he removed my watch from my wrist. “I put a trace on you the night we went to your place before going to Elysium.”
He tossed my several thousand dollar watch to the ground and smashed it with the heel of his shoe, I gasp, nearly bursting into tears thinking about how much it was still costing me in credit card payments to even pay for it, as he bent over and sifted through the broken remains. He picked up this thin disk of metal that was embedded into the back face of it, and held it up to the sunlight allowing me to see that there were small lines of circuitry laced within it.
“You’re insane.. I need to get away from you, I have to..”
“I’m not the only one following you Cydnee, there are others, people that don’t work for the same group as I do, in fact, we have conflicting agendas.”
“What exactly are you people trying to accomplish? Why am I so important?”
“You matter to the people I work for because it seems Mr Ellison hasn’t been entirely truthful with what he’s been using the government’s funds for.. we have reason to believe he’s utilising the ReGen research to engage in bio-warfare, and that would also explain why the project you have been working on has been fast tracked to manufacturing, it’s his getaway plan in case of extenuating or catastrophic circumstances. That’s not why I’m here though.. I’m here because I’m worried about you, especially with what happened.”
“Look, what happened was out of our control, I don’t blame you for what Cedric did.. if anything I blame myself for being oblivious to what he’s been capable of, I should have known after all this time. As for the ReGen project, far as I know, it’s a glorified cosmetic application with possible pharmaceutical capabilities and the plan details are quite far-fetched, if not whimsically optimistic. It’s a cell regenerator at best.. the bullet points emphasized a focus on production in skin care and possibly branching that off into viable tech for the medical industry. That’s supposed to be it, wrinkle creams and stem cell bandages are hardly diabolical innovative tactics. Plus this is all information that you, I, and everyone with the same clearance are privy to, I don’t understand why I’m the one singled out.”
“We believe you might be our way to find out the truth, you’ll know why soon as you return to work, I know why you haven’t gone back in two weeks but the excuse you’ve been using to work from home isn’t going to hold up, especially with the way Cedric has been trying to throw you under the bus. Your saving grace is that I’ve been in charge of Operations and all communication with Ms. Ymoja or Mr. Ellison have to come across my desk first. I’ve been able to stop his efforts in that regard, but there’s not much I can do to stop him from turning everyone else against you, there’s all sorts of rumors circling around.. I can’t stop it without you there.”
“Why are you protecting me.. let him do what he wants, let the rest of them talk, I’m done fighting, I’m done playing this game. Maybe I was never cut out for this, things were better when..”
“When you weren’t seen as a threat? That’s all that changed Cydnee, they’re afraid of you. They, most notably Cedric, fear your potential and what you’re capable of.”
“I’m going to be honest Shaw, I’ve been looking into drafting my resignation letter.. I can’t deal, I can’t live like this, I’m not that person no matter how much I pretend to be. I’ve already spoken to my landlord Friday morning and broken my lease, it cost me a pretty penny and I’ve been shelling out money I don’t have to stay in a hotel. I give up..”
“You can’t, if you give up then they win, Cedric wins.. too much is at stake. I need you to really think hard about what you’re deciding, the wrong move could endanger your future, mine, possibly the entire world’s.”
“Okay, okay, sheesh, I’ll think about it.. but I’m not making any promises.”
He nodded, though in his dark eyes I could see he had more to say, but for right now we both knew it was probably not the best time. Digging a hand into the inside pocket of his tweed trench coat, he pulled out an envelope, placing it into my palm, letting his touch linger momentarily. With a nod in farewell, he stood up, leaving me there wondering what I was going to do with myself, I broke the seal on the envelope and found a substantial check inside.
“I guess this covers the watch..” I called out, shaking my head, watching his back as he walked away.
I strolled into Arkham the next day, trying to be as inconspicuous as I could, the building was bustling with people, everyone running around jittery and excited. There were a few odd looks my way, but no one seem brazen enough to approach me. I sauntered into my office unobstructed to find stacks of paperwork piled high on my desk, which was ridiculous given the fact I’d asked everything to be sent to me directly since I’d been working from home.
Fool on me, for expecting anyone in this trifling ass company to be helpful or attempt to make my job easier, we were all accountable for ourselves and apparently had our own agendas. Not long after I arrived, Aemous walked in and shut the door behind him, looking slightly perturbed.
“Care to explain why you’ve been MIA for the last couple of weeks, or possibly why you have ignored my calls? What the hell is going on Cyd?”
“I have allot on my plate right now, can we just.. ugh, can we please just do this another time? I have to get caught up on all this.” I replied, gesturing to the mess on my desk, in exasperation.
“Well I’d advise you get on it, because if you haven’t noticed everyone around here is scuttling around like head chopped chicken’s, someone caught wind of an unsubstantiated rumor that Mr. Ellison is stopping by in person. There’s apparently been a decision made on the promotion we’ve all been gunning for..”
“What promotion?” I asked, scanning through the files in my hand, wondering what the hell has been going on with all the projects I was assigned to, everything was a mess.
“Are you serious, you mean to tell me you have no idea about the intrapreneurship that’s been proposed.. it’s the dream job of a lifetime, you’ll practically be given free reign with company resources.”
“Oh yeah, that.. I guess I have heard about it.”
“You don’t look excited, a pity given that you’re one of the top contenders, so I’ve heard. I’m actually quite jealous.. I wanted that job.”
“Well you aren’t the only one.. but honestly Famous I have more pressing issues to worry about. The Annual Retreat is this weekend yet all the transportation protocols I had set in stone three weeks ago are eroding away, I’m just now finding out that somehow or another the ReGen project is a fucking mess despite everything I’ve done to save it, and on top of that I’ve just been given notice that Mr Ellison wants the Sirius project manufacturing phase fast tracked even further by several months, a feat that is damn near impossible given the scale. What the hell’s been going on around here?!”
There was a sudden series of melodic ringing at that moment, as my phone went off, I picked it up and looked to see it was Yurika Ymoja, she only called me for severely important issues or to tell at me, so this had to be bad.
“Ms. Ymoja, this is Cydnee, how are you this morning?”
“Cut the pleasantries sweetie, as I haven’t got the time, Mr Ellison will be on site this afternoon and it’s imperative that we talk before then. Actually, we need to talk NOW, where are you?”
“Good, meet me downstairs, across the street at that quaint little Cafe. I know I usually never pick up my own coffee but I’m going to need an emergency fix if I plan on making through the day, with that said, I look way too fab to be on this long ass fucking line and I’ll damned if my couture is ruined with a lingering scent of coffee beans.” She replied haughtily and I could hear her hailing down one of the workers in the background, she seem to be in full effect, so I knew she was nervous. “Hey you! Yes you, Barista girl.. I need a venti triple espresso mocha soy skim latte, one sugar, hold the foam and top it off with a splash of Ethiopian black. If you get it to me in two minutes, this hundred dollar bill is yours honey. Please, thanks, and hurry the hell up.”
“Umm.. Ms. Ymoja, am I in trouble?”
“You will be if you don’t get your bubbly ass down here by the time my beverage is ready, MOVE IT!” She ordered, and hung up abruptly.
“Fuck Aemous, I’m deep in the shit’s.. what the fuck am I gonna do? Ellison is definitely gonna be here this afternoon.”
“Damn, damn, damn..” was his response as he ran from my office, calling out the news to the others that Jynx Ellison’s physical presence was confirmed to be in attendance, that meant everyone’s job was in danger, there’s rumor an intern got fired once for blinking first after daring to look him in the eye.
I grabbed my phone and coat as I bolted out the room, and made a beeline towards the staircase, it would be the first time I ever used it but that didn’t stop me from flying down them skipping three steps at a time. I burst out the lobby doors into the frantic crowd of New York City patrons heading to work in the early morning rush hour, scanning my eyes for the woman who would most likely stand out amongst the fray.
After a few seconds my eyes caught glance of what look to be a supermodel strutting straight off a runway in Milan, the sashay of her hips made it seem like she had personal lessons from the legendary Naomi herself, the lush ebon hue of her skin glisten against the rose chiffon gown that billow in the wind behind her. Her phone was attached to her ear and the cafe she exit was getting an ad campaign Starbucks would kill for, as she literally stop traffic and pedestrians in their tracks, all attention she was oblivious to.
“Blow on this.” She ordered bluntly without greeting, handing the steaming concoction of caffeine in her hands to me as she continued to bark instructions to whomever she was speaking to. “Look Doc, I don’t know what to tell you but I don’t care if they come from Mexico or from the blood of blonde little Mormon virgins, you get me my god damn hormones! I’ve never gone more than two days without my usual dose, and I’m literally raging like a bull without them.. and I’ll warn you right now you don’t want me to come stampeding through your office to get them.”
I follow behind her, struggling to keep up with her brisk pace, that still manage to seem to ooze glamour and chic sophistication despite a backdrop of yellow cabs and dingy pavement. If I wasn’t wearing my most expensive bespoke suit, I’d probably look like the homeless man we just pass shaking a Styrofoam cup of quarters, as I walk slash ran to match her speed. This was just the normal Yurika Ymoja effect, she shined and shimmered like a jewel embedded amongst mere rocks and rubble. Sudden and abrupt, she hung up on her conversation and turned, giving the length of me a quick up and down appraisal.
“Before we step through these doors, I can unofficially tell you the job all these bitches want, it’s yours.. but I warn you now, this puts a target on your forehead and a bead on the back, at Arkham there are many people with Icarus wings flying to reach the top, don’t let yours melt before you reach the glory of the sun Cydnee, we all know it’s a long way down.”
With that said, she snatch the steaming beverage I was still blowing on from my hands and turn to continue through the double door entrance, leaving me standing there wondering what I had done to deserve this. It was a blessing or a curse, either of which I wasn’t sure of yet, but looking to the sky I did the only thing I could think of to do.